He looks just like a regular guy, and talks like one, too. Glasses, shaved head. Overweight. He comes all the way from the back of the club to tip me on the front stage. It's my first stage set of the night, and I am getting tipped a lot. Later, for my third stage set, I will be tired, and will look tired, and will probably not be tipped at all. But fresh out of the dressing room, with my hair curled just so and a fresh coat of lip gloss, I am a hot commodity.
Shaved Head Glasses Overweight Guy tips me twice, then three times. He is smitten. He will be easy, so when I get off stage I go to him first. This is a Friday afternoon, after work. He is tired. I rub his shoulders. Then we dance a long time. I straddle his lap and he puts his hands around my throat. Not lightly, either. I feel each joint of each finger press into my skin. My throat constricts just a little. But I can see his eyes and I am not afraid.
After a few seconds, I sweep my neck in a circle and toss my hair. He lets me go. I turn my back to him and drape myself over his lap, head on his shoulder. He takes a fistful of my hair and pulls my ear to his mouth. "I'd like to have you on a leash," he says. "I'd like to make you crawl to me." I turn my head so I can see his eyes again. I'm still not afraid. Some people look at me and my guts knot instantly, but here I am and the skin of my stomach is smooth as a pond on a windless day. He lets go of my hair.
He keeps spending money, and I keep dancing. You want to know something? The really scary guys hardly ever spend money like this. The really scary guys sit in the corner like fly-fishermen and wait for you swim past their tables and sit on the arm of their chairs so they dart their thumbs up your panties -- strike -- before they tell you they don't want a dance. The really scary men don't like to pay, don't want to give anything back for what they get. They sit in the corner and wait to take, and take, and take, whatever little scraps of forced or stolen pleasure they can get, because deep down they think life owes them something and they're going to take it from this stripper's hide.
There are men who will hurt you, who feel entitled to hurt you. This guy isn't one of them. He is an odd one, though. I clamber up his chair and slide down his body until I'm kneeling on the floor in front of him. He leans forward, puts his arms around me. "Don't be scared," he whispers. "It's going to be OK."
I squirm till I can see his face again, and see that I'm still safe. I wonder what game we're playing now. There is some drama in his head, and I am acting in it, in a role I'll probably never know anything about. I smile at him, my kabuki face, which is whatever expression you want it to be. The blankest screen imaginable for the projection of whatever fantasy you like.
He puts his hands around my throat again. We look at each other. I wonder what he's seeing. "You're a wild one," he says.
You are wrong. I am nothing. I am not even here. I growl.
He smiles. "You ought to be chained up."